Re: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon
- Ahh, yes... Where would we be without Christopher Tolkien?
Is this the beginning of another Silmarillion appraisal on this list?
I can't think of anything much better than that!
On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 11:31 PM, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...>wrote:
> > While it is true as you point out that Christopher Tolkien
> > expresses some regret at certain aspects of his construction
> > of the published _Silmarillion_ , particularly his failure to
> > include a "frame", as you say [...], he also said in no uncertain
> > terms that for _The Silmarillion_ to remain unknown was for
> > him "out of the question" (see the Introduction to _Unfinished
> > Tales_). I agree with that fully; the thought that he might have
> > followed the alternative that his father left him of leaving the
> > work unpublished fills me with horror. To a large extent,
> > _The Silmarillion_ was Tolkien's life work, and as far as I am
> > concerned, there is no acceptable argument against its publication.
> Yes, absolutely. Too, the difficult nature of the challenge facing
> Christopher Tolkien is probably almost impossible for any of us to fully
> comprehend (except perhaps those few of us, like John, Wayne, Christina, and
> others, who have actually poured over the manuscripts themselves).
> Christopher described it this way (in the booklet, The Silmarillion: A Brief
> Account of the Book and Its Making):
> "To bring it into publishable form was a task at once utterly absorbing and
> alarming in its responsibility toward something that is unique. To decide
> what form that should be was not easy; and for a time I worked toward a book
> that would show something of this diversity, this unfinished and
> many-branched growth. But it became clear to me that the result would be so
> complex as to require much study for its comprehension; and I feared to
> crush The Silmarillion beneath the weight of its own history. I set myself,
> therefore, to work out a single text, by selection and arrangement." ()
> I think that says it pretty well. And I'm more than willing to accept a few
> missteps in the "single text" for what we got in exchange. Of course, Randy
> and probably everyone else here will agree with that. And in the end, we got
> the first plan as well (i.e., the "book[s] that would show something of this
> diversity"), in HoMe. I'm more than satisfied. :)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- To my mind, the decision to publish "The History of Middle-earth" is so
clearly the right one that, unless one is specifically raising Guy Kay's
objection - to switch metaphors, that authors should not let their readers
peek at "the man behind the curtain" - I find it hard to understand why
anyone would have a problem with it.
Then I realize that they probably have a totally fanciful and incorrect
notion of what the posthumous material consists of. Far too often, deceased
authors are exploited - their notes and abandoned drafts are turned into
gleaming new novels that are inferior in quality, diminishing the author's
reputation. I've even seen it said that Christopher Tolkien is writing new
books and publishing them under his father's name. How can we explain to
people that this isn't what's going on at all? The only two books that CT
rewrote at all, _The Silmarillion_ and _The Children of Hurin_, are just
smoothed-out versions of material his father wrote extensively. Whatever
changes or selective omissions have been made, they're not new material
being sold as something it's not.
All the rest of the books are scholarly editions of minimally edited
original papers, published commercially only because Tolkien is popular
enough that they'll sell. That's an entirely different thing than pushing
newly imagined novels over his name.
There are two reasons for publishing this material. First, there's a lot of
really good stuff in there that just wouldn't fit into _The Silmarillion_ as
published, because it's from a different angle or point of view, or from a
different stage in the creation of the mythology, so it wouldn't fit the
sub-creation. Secondly, because one of Tolkien's greatest virtues as an
author is the richness of his creation, and this enables the reader to watch
how it was made. This is what Guy Kay would rather we not see, but the
magnitude of the work Tolkien put into it, a whole dimension beyond a slice
of the inner history as we know it from LOTR, is itself a grand creation.
Lastly, one of the points I made in the article that Doug kindly mentioned
is that there's a fundamental difference in dealing with the work of a
living author and of a dead one. There's all sorts of things that are
appropriate to do only once the author is deceased. You wouldn't put a
living author into a box and bury it in the ground; you wouldn't distribute
his possessions or put them in a museum. And you wouldn't publish the
papers he's not done with. But once he's dead, he's done with them. There
will be no more revisions. Some authors realize this. My favorite example
is Robert Heinlein, who kept a box of personal papers he had no desire to
see print during his lifetime, but which he wanted published as soon as
possible after his death. And he picked a title for the book: _Grumbles
from the Grave_.
----- Original Message -----
From: "hoytrand" <randy@...>
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:01 PM
Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon
>I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
> (especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
> is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
> difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
> If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
> publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
> was not the right thing to do.
> Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
> admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
> ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
> -- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
> situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
> type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
> good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
> (This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
> I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this. :~)
> The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
- I am ambiguous about this issue because of the nature of 'The Legendarium', one of the terms Tolkien himself used in referring to his work. If we were talking about a published work or series of works and C. Tolkien was publishing first drafts this objection would have more force. This is a review of the process by which an extremely talented sub-creator/artist developed a form of mythology over his lifetime. It is not the same as publishing random notes for individual books. If nothing else we see the (?) sub-creative (?) process at work.
----- Original Message ----
From: hoytrand <randy@...>
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 6:01:22 PM
Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon
I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
(especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
was not the right thing to do.
Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
-- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
(This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this. :~)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I think David Emerson's comment about posthumous works being clearly
presented as original drafts and working papers intended for scholarly
access is a very helpful clarification; David Bratman said something
similar. I'm much more familiar with posthumous publications like *The
Silmarillion* -- where the editor polishes up the work and presents it
as the author's own -- than with publications like *The History of
Middle-Earth* series. Is this something that is done often? Am I only
less familiar with them because these don't usually exist in
mass-market paperback versions?
>...Secondly, because one of Tolkien's greatest virtues as anI remember debating with myself, when THE BOOK OF LOST TALES came out, whether I wanted to read variant versions and spoil the view I had of THE SILMARILLION, which I considered to be canon. I'm glad I went ahead and read all of the HOME volumes, because as many have pointed out since then, JRRT's vision of his own legendarium is so complex that it really needs to be seen in all its different forms and versions to comprehend fully.
>author is the richness of his creation, and this enables the reader to watch
>how it was made. This is what Guy Kay would rather we not see, but the
>magnitude of the work Tolkien put into it, a whole dimension beyond a slice
>of the inner history as we know it from LOTR, is itself a grand creation.
All right, so maybe I could have skipped the early drafts of LORD OF THE RINGS, but then I would've missed the delicious tidbits like Frodo and Strider originally being Bingo and Trotter.
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